Danny Smiles recently brought MUNCHIES along on a pilgrimage to Montreal’s Little Italy. He was there to give props to Elena Faita, the woman he calls “Montreal’s Mother Chef,” whose iconic hardware store and cooking school are landmarks in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Elena Faita and Danny Smiles. Photos by Farah Khan. At Elena’s Mezza Luna cooking school, he learns how to butcher a rabbit and prepare a hearty Northern Italian dish under her watchful eye. Thankfully, we’re sharing Elena’s recipe from that episode: a dish that combines cream, butter, and pancetta—more than enough lipids to keep your rabbit moist and creamy. RECIPE: Creamy Rabbit and Polenta Both the rabbit and accompanying sauce are prepared in the same roasting pan,[…]

The blend of cultures and flavors that is seen across the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean regions is a product of ancient trade routes, proximity, and, ultimately, conquest. That same mix gave birth to baklava, the crisp, syrupy dessert whose exquisiteness derives from the kitchens of sumptuous Ottoman palaces in 15th- and 16th-century Istanbul. The art of making baklava dates back to the nomadic Turks of the 11th century. Between the dessert’s butter-drenched layers of phyllo dough is the taste of fallen empires—Assyrian, Roman, Persian, Byzantine, Mongol, and Ottoman. While the flavor of baklava is different in every country that makes it—Greece, the Levant, Iran, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and beyond—the debate over who is the rightful owner of baklava ignores[…]